A Brief History

Spring 1997. Doug Roberson, talent buyer for Iowa City's original Gabe's Oasis (RIP) since1986, is asked to host Southern Culture on the Skids on July 4th. To make the event as exciting as possible, Roberson books Milwaukee's premier instrumental surf band, The Exotics, Des Moines' greatest hot rod rock band, The Delstars, and Iowa City’s own garage rock kings, The Bent Scepters (of which Roberson is a member) as support. The event is dubbed the ‘Firecracker 500’ and is a rousing success. Over 300 people turn out for the one night affair and plans are made to expand the festival the following year. Long Live Rock!

Another stellar lineup is assembled; the 1998 Firecracker 500 Festival hosts US garage rock legends The Fleshtones, with support from Los Straitjackets, The Swingin' Neckbreakers, Subsonics, The Bent Scepters, and The Delstars, among others. As an added bonus, St. Louis’ "live" music machine "Beatle Bob" is brought in to MC the night’s festivities. The crowd goes wild. This continued success leads to an even more ambitious plan for next year...

Summer of 1999 sees the Firecracker 500 Festival expand to four nights, and includes Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, New Duncan Imperials, Bob Log III, The Horrors (In The Red), Trolley, The Bent Scepters, The Delstars, and- headlining the final night to a sellout crowd- Frank Black (ex-Pixies). Success once again! A plan is cut to do it again, ‘same time next year’.

But it was not to be. For many assorted (and some say ridiculously sordid) reasons, things just didn’t get on track for summer of 2000, and the Firecracker 500 Festival lay dormant. Until...

Maybe it was 2004. Or early 2005. No one really remembers. But somewhere in there, Joe Derderian, Roberson’s friend and fellow garage rock aficionado, started nagging him about bringing back the Firecracker 500 Festival. Years of idle musings between the two became more insistent. In 2010, ‘Robe’, now the talent buyer for Iowa City’s Blue Moose Tap House, realized his compatriot was serious. Or maybe he just tired of the nagging. The result was the same: a proposition was put forth, a plan hatched, and complementary powers of know-who, booking, experience, and organization came together! Electrodes spit fire and this sleeping monster of garage rock-n-roll was brought Back From The Grave!

Thus, do we hereby decree the 2011 Firecracker 500 Festival... ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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